I Corinthians 14:34-35
I want to conclude 1 Corinthians with reflections on the Spirit, spiritual gifts and Paul writing about love, from which is a gift of the Spirit and the source of our spiritual gifts.
However, in Chapters 12 -15 that Paul writes about these, comes two sentences that have unfortunately eclipsed Paul, who he is, his message and his view or attitude toward women.
I was talking to a woman last evening, telling her about this blog and what I wanted to achieve in writing it. She said she has a friend who thinks Paul is a ‘woman hater’. I assured her that Paul is anything but a woman hater. In fact, Paul doesn’t hate anyone. I also find it a great shame if we have let this misunderstanding of Paul get in the way of his true meaning and message. As I said at the beginning in reading the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul’s letters often sound like love letters, or letters from a parent to his children that he loves, cares about and wants to strengthen their faith in Christ. And women are included in this.
So, when I got to these two sentences sited about, they didn’t ring right with all that had gone before in this letter. I hope that you have reading along, taking up your bible and reading the letters and stopping and reflecting upon whatever strikes you and seems to be Paul speaking to you personally. But here is the passage in question:
As in all churches of the saints, women are to remain quiet at meetings since they have no permission to speak; they must keep in the background as the Law itself lays down. If they have any questions to ask, they should ask their husbands at home: it does not seem right for a woman to raise her voice at meetings.
I am writing these reflections simply from reading Paul letters. I am not using any commentaries. Recall in Chapter 4 Paul says keep to what is written. That is my approach to the scriptures. The only hermeneutic we need is our humanity. But I went to The New Jerome Biblical Commentary out of sheer disbelief that Paul would have written these words. Especially after we had just read about how women are to conduct themselves at meetings where they are allowed to participate, both in prayer and prophecy. That’s pretty big stuff.
Sure enough, my intuitions were correct. This passage is not from Paul. It seems to be an addition to the letter at a later date. Jerome calls it a ‘post-Pauline interpolation’. And the commentary also cites the previous passage I have above in Chapter 11:5 which this later addition is in direct contradiction to. Not only does it contradict that verse but it goes against the whole of Paul goal of building up the Body of Christ, the unity of members with various gifts, and above all his ever recurring refrain of love and the faith in Christ without exclusions to those who believe.
What has happened here is what I spoke of earlier this week: that when we take sound bites of Paul’s words out of context, without understanding the larger message and how his admonitions, warnings and corrections build into the over-arching positive message, we misunderstand and do ourselves and Paul a great disservice. Paul didn’t hate women. Paul loved everyone, including women.